Stuck! How climate activists are stirring up the museum world


It's the fifth action within a week: The activists of the collective “Just Stop Oil” stick themselves to works of art in England. What's behind it?

Excitement in the National Gallery: Two activists have glued themselves to John Constable's “The Hay Wain”

Be it “Fridays for Future” or “Extinction Rebellion”: groups of more or less militant environmentalists are convinced that the Climate change is not given sufficient priority. Activism often moves along the fine lines of legal and illegal means. The (explosive) power unfolds in the attention that actions get – or not.

In London, supporters of Just Stop Oil took action at the National Gallery. Two young adults crossed the barrier of painter John Constable's “The Hay Wain” and manipulated the 1821 oil painting: they overlaid the rural idyll with a version showing planes approaching and departing on the horizon and obvious pollution. Then the two glued themselves to the picture frame. Museum visitors were led out of the room. On Tuesday, Just Stop Oil reported another action, this time on a 15th-century copy of Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper. The image belongs to the collection of the Royal Academy in London:

Against new oil and gas exploration in the UK

“I'm here because our government intends to license 40 new oil and gas projects in the UK over the next few years,” says 23-year-old Hannah Hunt , one of the activists whose t-shirt features the slogan and appeal “Stop Oil Now”. 

The future according to “Just Stop Oil”: environmental destruction instead of a rural idyll

Eben Lazarus, 22, said the new version of the image “is intended to illustrate the environmental impact of our dependence on fossil fuels,” AFP reports. “We can forget our 'beautiful green country', if even more oil production leads to crop failures, we will fight for food. In the end, these new fossil fuels are a death project from our government. So yes: there's glue to the frame of this picture, but above all, there is blood on the hands of our government.”

The action is part of a larger campaign by Just Stop Oil, a coalition of activist groups, with the stated aim of “ensuring that the government stops licensing and producing new fossil fuels,” according to its website. Just Stop Oil supporters staged protests in Glasgow, Manchester and London last week, with activists sticking themselves to paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, William Turner and Horatio McCulloch. Activists also made an appearance at the Formula 1 Grand Prix at Silverstone last Sunday.

Civilians Disobedience: Two activists from “Just Stop Oil” in London's National Gallery

“Just Stop Oil” use tactics of non-violent civil disobedience, in the tradition of “Extinction Rebellion” and “Insulate Britain”. “These organizations are showing that we need to do more to stop these crimes against humanity,” Just Stop Oil says. It's no longer about a single project or campaign, we need to stand up to a government , which causes us suffering and violates our right to freedom, development and a future”.

No damage to the paintings has been reported so far. According to the news agency AFP, the London police have not identified the two activists arrested.

jhi/ash (with AFP)